WIDE OPEN: BORN WITH IT!

By Tim “Lumpy” Tolleson / [email protected]

I went to the Sand Hollow UTV Takeover to shoot and test a couple of Can-Am Maverick X3 demo units, and the demo display had a “Born With It” Can-Am sticker. It struck a nerve, so I grabbed the sticker and stuck it in my camera bag.

I, too, was born with it! My dad knew when he was 7 that he wanted to be a biker; he decided that when returning WWII veterans rode by the farm on new Harley-Davidsons and Indians. His first bike was a Jawa 125, and he added big fenders and lights to make it look like H-Ds and Indians. Before I was born, he talked Mom into buying a Brownie 8mm movie camera, so he could capture me (and my little brother Tracy) growing up, and his exploits in sports-car racing, rough scrambles, weight lifting and more. He experimented with the in-car camera, double exposure and more.

When he got cancer, he went through all of the home movies and had them converted to DVD, and I played the DVDs at his memorial. The first one with me was Dad running around the backyard pushing me in my stroller. Yes, I was born with it—the need for speed. I don’t remember going to rough scrambles races as a tyke, but there he was racing a Honda 305, long before motocross was introduced to America. I wrote recently about him jumping his sports cars over a bridge, and he would race Gymkanas and Bashkanas with his sports-car club. I’d sit shotgun during his practice runs, and once at Zink’s Ranch outside of Tulsa, he spun his Austin-Healey out on purpose. A race official came over and started yelling at him, saying, “If you’re going to drive like an idiot, get your son out of the car first!” He made me get out, and I was so mad! The ref ruined my fun!

We were on a really tight budget, eating lots of Hamburger Helper, Spam and Bisquick, but we ate chicken once a week, usually chicken Kiev. But my favorite was BBQ hot dogs over mashed potatoes. Mom would render a Coke down and pour in ketchup to make BBQ sauce, then chop up wieners. Entertainment was drive-in double features (Mom would pop a grocery bag full of popcorn and make ice tea) and camping (gas was 23 cents a gallon), so I grew up on adventure movies and camping trips when he wasn’t racing or competing at weight meets. We scrimped so we could buy more toys.

I lost the training wheels on my first bike before I was 4. I went to 15 different K-12 schools and rode 17 bicycles into the ground. I could wheelie for miles, and we’d set up ramps and even bunny-hop filing cabinets. The first scene of “On Any Sunday” could’ve been me. I learned to ride on Dad’s Honda 160 Scrambler, sitting on the gas tank with him holding it up. He bought me a CL90 for my 10th birthday, and it took seemingly forever for me to learn the clutch. We rode Texas creek trails, camped and shot .22s at what is now Dallas-Forth Worth Airport, on the Continental Divide, west of Denver, and then in the Mojave Desert. We rode gnarly trails at what now is Bean Canyon, and I honed my bike skills on that CL90 and a friend’s step-through Trail 90. Dad wanted to buy a BSA 441 Victor, but friends talked him into getting a Yamaha DT-1 250 instead.

I raced that DT-1 at an international race in Denver in 1971, not long after we watched “On Any Sunday” in the theater and Dad brought home the first issue of Dirt Bike Magazine. He bought me a used ‘69 125 Penton Six Day, and the family would camp at the motocross track. Later, I got a 1972 125 Penton CMF (chromoly frame) and 1973 Yamaha MX3, and two shop rides in Martinsville, Virginia. Mom would bake home-made pizza, and friends would come over to eat and watch racing movies. We did that through my high school years, and I dreamed with racing buddies of working for Dirt Bike Magazine, which I eventually made reality.

Yes, I was born with it, whether “it” was the need for speed, love of the outdoors, wanderlust, adventure-seeking or thrill rides. As a family, we camped, took karate and judo classes, went water and snow skiing, karting, white-water rafting, sports-car and slot-car racing, fishing, shooting, and dirt bike and street riding. I went on to race ATVs in short-course and desert and then UTVs. I also did a lot of RC-car racing. I get to hang out and ride with greats of the sport and industry that were also born with it. Dad wasn’t born with it, but I was blessed to have him attend the 2015 Maverick 1000R Turbo press introduction at Glamis and take him up Oldsmobile Hill shortly before he died.

Whether you were born with it or are a recent convert to the off-road lifestyle, this “2024 Dirt Wheels ATV/UTV Buyer’s Guide” is for you. Check out the machines and try them out at a nearby jamboree manufacturer demo ride, or you can rent one at a Polaris Adventures, Can-Am Uncharted Society and/or Destination Yamaha outfitter. Try it before you buy it.

If you weren’t born with it, may your children be. As Can-Am also says, see you out there!

Pick up the Dirt Wheels Buyer’s Guide – on newsstands now!

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